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Chronic pain is pain that continues long after apparent direct causes for it like illness or injury have recovered or alternately it can be defined as ongoing acute pain from conditions that are deteriorative in nature. There are numerous potential causes of both types of chronic pain and many different treatment strategies for it. These treatments attempt to reduce pain, but are imperfect, and many people with chronic pain spend years suffering before finding workable approaches or methods. For conditions that cause deterioration of the nerves, even with assistance, pain may still worsen over time, though interventions may reduce discomfort.
Doctors don’t define chronic pain by location, but by duration. If from an initial injury, the pain could continue in the injury’s location even when the body is healed. For undefined reasons, nerves continue to send pain signals to the brain, though these signals are no longer necessary. This can cause debilitation or a continual sense of suffering, depending on how often the nerves misfire.
Injury isn’t necessarily the only cause of this type of pain. Inflammatory diseases like arthritis can affect one or more joints at all times. People get migraines which, when unsuccessfully treated, result in severe headaches. Some people suffer aches and pains all over the body that are associated with conditions like depression or bipolar disorder. This pain can be just as intense and serious as discomfort caused by anything else.
Doctors vary in treatment strategies for pain and may address it by condition. Some medications will directly reduce source of certain pain. For example, there are migraine medicines that may help quickly stop some migraines. People with inflammatory conditions could use daily steroids to reduce inflammation. These medicines only work in condition-specific ways and they may not always totally address pain.
One common solution is to give opioid pain relievers for acute episodes. Unfortunately, if pain persists, they create dependence and over time they can become less effective. While there is no shame in being dependent on a legally prescribed drug to reduce serious pain, there is a problem if eventually the drug fails to work because the body demands more of it.
One drug that doesn’t seem to carry this difficulty is medical marijuana. There are many places where this drug is not available and where it may be illegal. Advocates of those with chronic pain continue to push for its legalization, or at the very least, for medical use.
There are non-drug approaches to lasting pain, too. A number of studies confirm that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or other mental health support may help people change the way they perceive pain. Some people also turn to alternative therapies like acupuncture, and there have been similar studies suggesting that it may reduce pain. Ultimately, chronic pain is best treated by a combination of methods that teach long-term pain coping strategies, support acute flareups of pain, and offer other therapies, drug or alternative, that seem to benefit a patient's individual condition.